This Sunday, friends gathered for a “Musical Tribute to Kenny Melillo” at Café 9 in New Haven. He was a well known state musician and force in New Haven, who recently passed away. He was a founding member and manager of New Haven based bands: Made in the Shade, Full House, Elm City Blues Project and, most recently, DW Armstrong and the Rent Party Band, winning the CT Blues Society Best Band contest. He was a talent agent for The Savoy Agency as well as a member of the Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra. An instructor at The Family Music Center in Hamden, Kenny has guided many young musicians in the art and appreciation of music. Under his direction his students have enjoyed learning guitar, drums, harmonica, saxophone and trumpet.
Often one guesses what the musical legacy of a musician will be. Will it be a classic CD? A song? A riff? In Melillo’s case his legacy was on display during the Tribute. It is the gift of music that he gave to his many students. He put in place a way to keep the music alive.
The first performance was from some of these students. The Family Music Center All-Stars. The names came fast so I got some and missed some.
Guitar players as always dominate. On bass and holding her own around all the guitar players was Crystal. This young lady had me thinking back to the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. At the BMAs the 2 time bass player was a young woman from the Northwest, Lisa Mann. Crystal was good and played as her family watched. There were many proud parents in the audience.
Then more players forming the second groups of All-Stars.
During their performance, the students gave some heartfelt testimonials. They talked about learning more from Melillo then just music. One young guitarist spoke of being helped to overcome his fear of speaking in front of a crowd. The finale was a pepped up version of “Free Bird.”
After the students some friends and band mates took the stage.
They played a few songs and hen brought up DW Armstrong. The powerful vocalist was the frontman for DW Armstrong & the Rent Party Band. Armstrong referred to Melillo as his go to guitar guy.
In 2001 the Rent Party Band won the Connecticut Blues Society’s Band Challenge and headed played on Beale St in Memphis.
Armstrong explained that he does get emotional and at this occasion more than most. He talked about his friend and did a few numbers
Then the band took a break to bring up more players. It was a good time for old friends to talk
I said hello to some friends and headed out to other commitments.
The event also raised funds for The Kenny Melillo Music Scholarship Fund. For more information contact JKELMAN57@aol.com.